Cognitive theory of personality and some terminology
Beck believes that psychological disorders are caused by a combination of biological, environmental, and social factors. Rarely is one of these a cause for a disorder. In understanding a disturbance, Beck uses a cognitive model of development that includes the impact of early childhood experiences on the development of cognitive schemas and automatic thoughts. Beliefs and schemas are subject to cognitive distortions, a key concept in cognitive therapy (198).
The cognitive model of development
As individuals develop, they think about their world and themselves in different ways. Their beliefs and assumptions about people, events, and themselves are cognitive schemas. Individuals have automatic thoughts that are derived from these beliefs that they are not aware of. How individuals shift from adaptive beliefs to distorted beliefs is referred to as cognitive shifts in Beck’s system.
Schemas or cognitive schemas are ways of thinking that comprise a set of core beliefs and assumptions about how the world operates.
Automatic thoughts are notions or ideas that occur without effort or choice, that can be distorted; and lead to emotional responses. Automatic thoughts provide data about core beliefs.
Cognitive shift is a biased interpretation of life experiences, occurring when individuals shift their focus from unbiased to more biased information about themselves or their world.
Negative cognitive shift is a state in which interpretation of life experiences, occurring when individuals shift their focus form negative information about themselves.
Affective shift is a shift in facial or bodily expressions of emotion or stress indicating that a cognitive shift has just taken place, often a negative cognitive shift. Often an indication of a hot cognition.
Hot cognition is a strong or highly charged thought or idea that produces powerful emotional reactions (198).
Cognitive distortions are exaggerated and irrational thoughts, identified in cognitive therapy and its variants, which in theory perpetuate some psychological disorders. Automatic thoughts are subject to cognitive distortions. Cognitive therapists have identified a variety of cognitive distortions that can be found in different psychological disorders. Eliminating these distortions and negative thoughts is said to improve mood and discourage maladies such as depression and chronic anxiety. The process of learning to refute these distortions is called “cognitive restructuring” (48).
All-or-nothing thinking is engaging in black-or-white thinking. Thinking in extremes, such as all good or all bad, with nothing in the middle.
Selective abstraction is selecting one idea or fact from an event while ignoring other facts in order to support negative thinking.
Negative prediction is a belief that something bad is going to happen even though there is no evidence to support this prediction (198).
Overgeneralization is an example of distorted thinking that occurs when individuals make a rule based on a few negative or isolated events and then apply it broadly.
Labelling is creating a negative view of oneself based on errors or mistakes that one has made. It is a type which affects one’s view of oneself.
Magnification is a cognitive distortion in which an imperfection is exaggerated into something greater than it is.
Minimization is making a positive event much less important than it really is.
Personalization is a cognitive distortion in which an individual takes an event and relates it to himself or herself when there is no relationship. An example would be, “Whenever I want to go skiing, there is no snow”. Wanting to go skiing does not cause a lack of snow.